CLOSE BROTHERS MARES’ HURDLE

The Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle, registered as the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle, is open to fillies and mares only.

It commemorates 'the Duke' David Nicholson, who won 4 races at the Festival as a jockey and 17 as a trainer.

Grade 1 | 4yo+ | Tuesday 16.10
2 miles 4 furlongs | 10 hurdles | Old Course
Weight: 10st 7lb (4yo) / 11st 5lb (5yo+)
Prize money (2022): £120,000 | 1st: £67,524

Only established in 2008, the race quickly made history with legendary mare Quevega winning it six times in a row from 2009 to 2014.

It has undoubtedly been a success, with other high-class winners such as Apple's Jade, Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle.

12/15 winners were Irish trained (9 by Willie Mullins)
14/15 winners had previously won over 2½ miles or further
12/15 winners won last time out
6 of the last 8 winners were aged 7
10 of the last 12 favourites were sent off at odds-on (5 won)
7/15 favourites won (6 of those were Quevega)
Updated to include 2022 renewal

Willie Mullins used to dominate this race, albeit Quevega represented 6 of his 9 wins, but he's now saddled the beaten favourite in each of the last four renewals (three odds-on).

In fact, four odds-on shots were defeated in succession from 2018, starting with the Gordon Elliott trained Apple's Jade at 1/2.

Meanwhile, a runner priced 16/1 or bigger has finished in the first three of the Mares' Hurdle in 13 of the 15 renewals.

That has included 18/1 and 20/1 winners, plus placed horses at 33/1 (twice), 40/1 (twice), 50/1 and 66/1 (twice).

Stamina seems to be the key prerequisite, with all but the very first winner having already won over this trip or further.

LAST 5 WINNERS’ DATA

YEAR
AGE
OFFICIAL RATING
WEIGHT
2022
7
140
11-5
2021
7
148
11-5
2020
6
158
11-5
2019
7
142
11-5
2018
7
147
11-5

PREVIOUS WINNERS

YEAR
WINNER
JOCKEY / TRAINER
SP
2022
Marie's Rock
Nico de Boinville / Nicky Henderson
18/1
2021
Black Tears
Jack Kennedy / Mrs Denise Foster
11/1
2020
Honeysuckle
Rachael Blackmore / Henry De Bromhead
9/4
2019
Roksana
Harry Skelton / Dan Skelton
10/1
2018
Benie Des Dieux
Ruby Walsh / Willie Mullins
9/2
2017
Apple's Jade
Bryan Cooper / Gordon Elliott
7/2
2016
Vroum Vroum Mag
Ruby Walsh / Willie Mullins
4/6f
2015
Glens Melody
Paul Townend / Willie Mullins
6/1
2014
Quevega
Ruby Walsh / Willie Mullins
8/11f
2013
Quevega
Ruby Walsh / Willie Mullins
8/11f
2012
Quevega
Ruby Walsh / Willie Mullins
4/7f
2011
Quevega
Ruby Walsh / Willie Mullins
5/6f
2010
Quevega
Ruby Walsh / Willie Mullins
6/4f
2009
Quevega
Ruby Walsh / Willie Mullins
2/1f
2008
Whiteoak
Jason Maguire / Donald McCain
20/1

The Nicky Henderson trained Marie's Rock won the 2022 Mares' Hurdle, which featured five previous Cheltenham Festival winners.

Owned by the Middleham Park Racing syndicate, she was ridden to a length and three-quarters victory by Nico de Boinville:

‘IT’S GREAT TO HAVE A SYNDICATE WINNER AT THE FESTIVAL. THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THE PADDOCK TODAY, AND I KNOW LOTS MORE ARE WATCHING AT HOME’

The 2021 Close Brothers Mares' winner was Black Tears to give trainer Denise Foster her first Cheltenham Festival winner.

Jack Kennedy produced the 11/1 shot with a perfectly-timed challenge to deny the favourite Concertista in a thrilling finish:

‘THE LINE WAS COMING AND WE WERE JUST STARTING TO GET UP SO I WAS PRAYING IT WOULDN’T COME TOO SOON’

Honeysuckle won an epic duel with Benie Des Dieux in 2020, having looked at the mercy of the odds-on favourite in the hands of a motionless Paul Townend racing down the hill.

But Rachael Blackmore nipped up the inside on her mount to steal an advantage on the final bend and they held on for a half-length victory:

‘SOMETIMES THE BALL BOUNCES IN YOUR FAVOUR’

There was huge drama in 2019, with Benie Des Dieux falling at the last when cruising to back-to-back victories, leaving Harry Skelton to pick up the pieces aboard Roksana.

The fall was eerily reminiscent of Annie Power's at the same hurdle in this race four years earlier - both ridden by Ruby Walsh and sporting the pink and green silks of Rich Ricci:

‘OBVIOUSLY I AM THE BENEFICIARY OF WHAT HAPPENED - THAT’S JUMP RACING. YOU ARE NEVER HOME UNTIL YOU JUMP THE LAST’

Benie Des Dieux had lowered the colours of reigning champion Apple's Jade in 2018.

She was running over hurdles for the first time since November 2015, but the switch back to smaller obstacles paid off under Ruby Walsh:

‘I THOUGHT OFF THE BEND I WAS WELL AND TRULY STUFFED BUT IT’S A LONG WAY FROM THE BEND TO THE FINAL HURDLE’

Apple’s Jade had fended off the Willie Mullin's pair of Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini in 2017.

She had also been trained by Mullins the previous season, but owner Michael O’Leary moved all of his horses from that yard after a disagreement over training fees.

Now with Gordon Elliott, it looked like she had it all to do once Vroum Vroum Mag edged ahead after the final flight, at which point Limini made a costly error:

‘TODAY WAS HER GOLD CUP. I PUT A TONGUE-STRAP ON HER FOR THE FIRST TIME AND THANKFULLY IT WORKED OUT’

Vroum Vroum Mag 2016

The 2015 renewal will always be remembered for Annie Power's infamous final flight fall.

Willie Mullins had sent out three winners on the day and bookies were facing huge liabilities on accumulator bets on his four favourites.

Estimated to have saved the bookmaking industry over £50 million, it was thus called "the single most expensive fall in National Hunt history" for punters.

Her stablemate Glens Melody saw off Polly Peachum in front of a near silent grandstand:

‘I THOUGHT ANNIE JUST STOOD OFF - SHE WAS PROBABLY GOING TOO WELL’

Quevega created history by winning the Mares' Hurdle for a sixth successive year in 2014 - becoming the the winning-most horse ever at the Cheltenham Festival.

She passed Golden Miller's mark of five Cheltenham Gold Cup wins in the 1930s.

But Willie Mullins' mare was made to work hard by stablemate Glens Melody, only getting her head in front in the final 100 yards:

‘SHE’S GOT STAMINA, SPEED AND EVERYTHING. SHE’S JUST CLASS - WHAT MORE CAN I SAY?’

Quevega also had to dig deep to secure her fifth Mares' Hurdle in 2013, after almost being knocked over at the top of the hill in the hands of Ruby Walsh:

‘SHE DISAPPEARED FROM UNDER ME AND WHEN SHE STOOD BACK UP THEY WERE GONE DOWN THE HILL. I HAD TO LET HER FILL UP AND SHE POWERED HER WAY HOME’

She won her first Mares' Hurdle back in 2009:

David Nicholson rode Tantalum to victory in the 1971 Champion Chase and trained Charter Party to win the 1988 Cheltenham Gold Cup, plus Viking Flagship to Champion Chase success in both 1994 & 1995

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